Stuart Gordon’s Re-Animator (based on the serialized novel Herbert West, Re-Animator by H.P. Lovecraft) is a horror movie so good that even the brows-held-high film critics have to begrudgingly give it props. It’s a filthy little movie that explores the concept of mortality and asks the question, even if we could bring the dead back to life, would we really want to? The film is a wonder of color and sound, eerie but darkly comic and arch at points. The entire film coalesces around the performance of Jeffrey Combs as Dr. Herbert West, the twitchy antisocial genius with a warped sense of morality who discovers how to re-animate dead tissue. The movie climaxes on a disgustingly hilarious set-piece and a grotesque orgy of violence that really lives up to the potential of the film. It is, in a word, brilliant.
Bride of Re-Animator picks up a few months after the events of the first film. Dan Cain (Bruce Abott) and Herbert West (having apparently survived strangulation by re-animated intestines at the end of the first film) are serving as medics in a civil war in Peru. West has discovered a way to re-animate damaged tissue using a protein from reptiles and that separate body parts can be re-animated as they have consciousness of their own.
After the war, West and Cain return home to Miskatonic, Massachusetts where West begins building the “perfect” woman out of body parts, using the heart of Cain’s deceased girlfriend Meg as the centerpiece. Meanwhile, a police Lieutenant (Claude Earl Jones) is on the trail of the people who caused the “Miskatonic Massacre” (the climax of the first film). If that wasn’t enough, the re-animated head of Dr. Hill (David Gale) has now affixed re-animated bat wings to the side of his face and gained the ability to call other re-animated creatures to his aid and he’s hellbent on getting revenge on West.
Does It Hold Up?
It never would have, but still no. Brian Yuzna is a capable director and the effects of Screaming Mad George class the joint up, but Yuzna is no Stuart Gordon. Bride of Re-Animator has all the elements of Re-Animator but Yuzna doesn’t balance them as well as Gordon did and the movie comes across as too serious, too campy, and too weird at alternate points. The film just sort of shambles from scene to scene with little narrative to drive events along. It’s all worth it for the finale, which is disgusting and wonderful and filled with horrifying grotesqueries galore. It’s step down from the first movie but still an enjoyable endeavor in its own right, and also a film that obviously built the groundwork for Yuzna’s other polarizing sequel, Return of the Living Dead Part 3.
The Dr. Hill stuff is far too silly and should have been left on the cutting room floor. But as before (and especially after in the case of the even weaker Beyond Re-Animator) Jeffrey Combs brings a lot of credibility to the film. I’m sure it was always the plan but bringing back Herbert West saved the movie in a lot of ways. It’s also a bit of a detriment to the movie, though, as every other actor pales in comparison to Combs. I didn’t even realize how good an actor Bruce Abbott is until I saw him in a movie where he was acting against someone else.
Bride of Re-Animator isn’t great, but it’s still pretty good.
Watch, Toss, Or Buy?
Where Can I Find It?
There’s a Blu-ray/DVD pack available from Arrow Video.